Northampton Saints hosted the first Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup festival of 2015 on Saturday, where Silhillians under-11s booked their place at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final in May.
In total, more than 7,000 children will participate over the course of the season as they go in search of a spot in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup ‘Parade of Champions’ during half-time of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final.
There were plenty of potential stars on show at the Saints training pitches in the shadow of Franklin’s Park, as 20 different teams took to the field in an under-11s tournament, before the youngsters were treated to a show of their own as they watched Northampton Saints romp to a 29-6 victory over Wasps.
Silhillians went unbeaten through the group stages only conceding one try, before edging out Braintree RFC 4-2 in a thrilling final to seal their place at Twickenham.
“It feels so great to have topped the whole tournament,” said 11-year-old skipper Kieran Daly. “It was such a tight final and the time was ticking so slowly there at the end, so it was really tense.
“We're glad it's over now and I think the team really deserved it as we got better and better as the day went on.
“This is definitely our biggest tournament of the year and we've really be looking forward to it for a while.
“We've been playing big matches before this to prepare as well, and it's been a great atmosphere here which we've really enjoyed.
“I like the challenge of a day like this as there are some great teams here so we definitely improve as players and bond as a team.
“I love rugby because in some sports you might have one person who is the best on a team, but in rugby it's not like that. You have to have your team there with you.
Meanwhile, the Land Rover Spirit of Rugby Award, which goes to a player who demonstrated the values of rugby, was given to Harvey Sharpe whose Kettering RFC side played with grit and determination, showing exemplary fair play throughout.
On the pitch the side were polite and respectful to the referees, while off it the coaches ensured they would make substitutions to involve everyone and make sure no games were one-sided.
Upon receiving the award, 10-year-old Sharpe said: “It makes me feel very, very happy and honoured to win an award like this.
“To win some equipment for the team will help us a lot, and as soon as it was announced everyone was jumping around and cheering so I’m quite proud.
“It’s been a great day. Playing in front of so many people like this is amazing and getting to represent Kettering on this stage has been good.
“It will help us to improve as players, and gives us a confidence boost when we win, but also teaches you that it’s important not to get too down if you don’t.”
Launched during the 2008-09 season, the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup is the first national grassroots tournament officiated by Premiership Rugby and run in conjunction with all 12 Premiership Rugby clubs.
Casting an eye over proceedings were Saints young-guns Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi and Harry Mallinder who joined in with some drills and took part in a Q&A session. Centre Mallinder believes he saw more than a few players with huge potential.
He said: “Grass roots rugby is very important and it’s great to come down here at the weekend and see so many young people, young boys and girls, taking part in rugby at a young age and getting involved.
“At this stage it’s all about getting out there playing with some good experience from good coaches, and then they get to stay and watch the game later.
“It’s really good for Saints and for the youth development at the club.
“I’ve been to a few of these events now with different age groups – just popped in to say hello and help out.
“It’s great to see so many people here and I definitely enjoy doing a bit of coaching for the kids, because there were people who did the same for me when I was this age.
“It was always nice to have someone to look up to – a senior player to watch on the TV and focus on, and if you see them and talk to them in person it makes their day so it’s great to help out.”
Land Rover supports grassroots rugby and provides the opportunity for over 7,000 youngsters to take part in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup each season. Keep up-to-date with the latest Land Rover rugby activity by following @premrugby and @LandRoverRugby.